The East Sider

The East Sider: Marc Trachtenberg of Rock-a-Baby

"I’m a parent of two kids; I feel like a grownup when I need to be, but I never really lost my childish heart… "

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Squirming, singing and dancing in a classroom? For children attending Rock-a-Baby classes at the Jewish Community Center in Providence or other venues in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York, absolutely! Founder Marc Trachtenberg, who grew up on the East Side, describes Rock-a-Baby as engaging, enriching and exciting.

Who are the people and puppets of Rock-a-Baby?
I’m on keyboards, Benny Tilchin plays guitar and Becca Christie or Rachel O’Connell sings. Early piano lessons ingrained in me the three pillars of music – rhythm, melody and harmony; each of us has a puppet character [named for one of the pillars]. Without one of them, something is missing.

Tell us more about your piano lessons?
I started lessons at seven, and a different teacher introduced me to jazz [and] John Coltrane when I was 12. When I heard that music, it blew open the door for me. I [studied] jazz performance at New York University and went into music education.

What kind of music does Rock-a-Baby play?
I write all the original music, although I collaborated on three songs. We want kids to hear live rock and roll music. We’ll [play songs by] the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but we’ll also play kids’ music like Raffi.

Do you play for kids or adults?
We play for everybody. We’re trying to make a unique musical moment for the grownup and child together… we’re playing for ourselves, too.

Are you an overgrown kid?
I’m a parent of two kids; I feel like a grownup when I need to be, but I never really lost my childish heart… Sometimes I’m childish, sometimes childlike, sometimes a child at heart, and I put them all in their place.

What does this work mean to you?
It lets me be a musician all day and work with other musicians… there’s something special about sharing music with kids. There’s a sense of pride that I own my business, make my own choices and call the shots.

Any musical role models?
John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Billy Joel… I just love good music… Mr. Rogers was my role model for working with kids. There was something magical about that show.

Is this work or play?
In the classroom, it doesn’t feel like work. At the computer, when I’m doing [things] to keep business afloat, that’s work.

Do you sing at home?
I sing at the piano all the time… I think my kids are starting to tune me out.

Classes for young children, four months to four years, and their adult caregivers run for eight weeks. 

Nancy Kirsch is an award-winning freelance writer in Providence. Contact her at writernancy@gmail.com